Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY
The overthrow of Haiti’s elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide on 30 September 1991 by Lieutenant General Raoul Cedras’ military coup set off a chain of events that culminated in Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY. The United Nation’s response to the coup was to pass UN Resolution 970 placing a trade embargo on Haiti. The embargo devastated the economy and triggered an exodus of more than 21,000 citizens. Many tried to enter the United States. On 3 July 1993, the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS) brokered the Governors Island Accords, a ten-point program designed to restore democracy to Haiti.1 Both Cedras and Aristide signed the Accords, prompting the UN to lift the embargo. However, the reconciliation was short-lived.
1 U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Combined Arms Research Library, “Governors Island Accords”, appendix D,
When 220 U.S. and UN advisors arrived in Port-au-Prince aboard the USS Harlan County to begin the mission of training and advising the Haitian Army and police forces on 8 October 1993, an armed mob refused to allow the vessel to dock. The conditions in Haiti continued to deteriorate and resulted in a humanitarian crisis. On 31 July 1994 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 940 authorizing “application of all necessary means by member nations” to restore the elected Aristide government.2 President William J. Clinton committed the United States to lead the multi-national effort.
2 United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1994,
The XVIIIth Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina was given the task of planning and executing the campaign called Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY. The Corps first formed Joint Task Force 180 (JTF-180) giving the 82nd Airborne Division the mission of invading the island to enforce the UN mandate to restore the Aristide government. The Corps then established JTF-190 around the 10th Mountain Division as the follow-on force for the long-term occupation of the country. Included in JTF-190 was the 3rd Special Forces Group (3rd SFG), whose mission was to establish a presence in the countryside and provide a secure environment for the return of the Aristide regime and the subsequent follow-on elections. On 19 September 1994, JTF-180 aboard the USS Eisenhower was poised off the coast of Haiti to conduct an airmobile assault into Port-au-Prince. Aircraft loaded with paratroopers of the 82nd were in the air bound for the island. A last-minute diplomatic effort by former President Jimmy Carter, Senator Sam Nunn, and General Colin Powell convinced LTG Cedras to honor the Governors Island Accords. JTF-180 entered the now permissive environment and established control of Port-au-Prince. President Aristide arrived on 15 October 1994. His return triggered the transition between JTF-180 and the UN forces. JTF-180 was replaced by JTF-190 and on 24 October 1994, the 10th Mountain Division and the UN-authorized Multi-National Force (MNF) took over the mission. JTF-190 and the MNF formed an interim force that was replaced in April 1995 by the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH).
JTF-190 was composed of the 10th Mountain Division, the 3rd Special Forces Group (3rd SFG) and the MNF. 1,500 troops from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Bangladesh, Guatemala, and Costa Rica joined with the 21,000 U.S. soldiers to restore order and provide security for the population that was riven with civil unrest.3 The 10th Mountain Division and the MNF concentrated their effort in the capital city of Port-au-Prince while the 3rd SFG dispersed its operational detachments throughout the country. 3rd SFG adopted a “Hub and Spoke” organization that concentrated the teams in certain towns (the Hub) from which they radiated out to the remote outlying villages (the Spokes), in an economy of force role that provided the widest possible coverage for the Group’s resources. The mission of UPHOLD DEMOCRACY was to establish a secure environment for the return of the Aristide government and the subsequent follow-on national elections stipulated by the UN.
3 Lieutenant Colonel David Bentley, “Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY: Military Support for Democracy in Haiti,” in The Strategic Forum, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University Number 78, June 1966,
Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY formally ended on 31 March 1995 when the United States transferred the peacekeeping responsibility to the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH). By then the U.S. 25th Infantry Division which replaced the 10th Mountain Division in January 1995, was leading the U.S. forces. Thirty-four nations sent contingents to the UNMIH, which in June 1995 reached its peak strength of 6,000 troops and 900 civilian police.4 UNMIH continued to carry on the mission of providing a secure environment for the reestablishment of democratic government in Haiti until it was replaced in June 1996 by the United Nations Support Mission in Haiti (UNSMIH). The charter of the UNSMIH was to provide humanitarian assistance and take the lead in rebuilding the Haitian economy.
4 United Nations Mission in Haiti Fact Sheet,